Stephens College

Sexual Health

Sexual health is very important and can easily be disregarded due to people feeling awkward and embarrassed to talk about it. However, discussing your sexual health with both your GP and any sexual partner is vital as it may lead to major issues which if overseen, may cause long- term problems and illnesses.  If you have any concerns or symptoms whatsoever, you should get tested. It is best to get a full STI test as it is very difficult to identify and diagnose an infection only from symptoms you are having, unless a recent sexual partner has a particular infection then the testing will be specific to that infection.


One of the most common STI’s in the UK is chlamydia and it is easily passed on by having unprotected sex because many people do not experience symptoms and do not realise they have the infection, thus passing it on. Chlamydia can also be found in the throat, rectum, or eyes. And each area can be tested with the appropriate method, e.g. a urine test or by taking a swab, and can be treated with a one off dose of antibiotics - Azithromycin.

Symptoms for women and for men are slightly different. Women usually feel a burning sensation when passing urine, can have an abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding between periods or during sex, painful sex, and pains in the lower abdomen. If this infection goes unnoticed it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which may lead to infertility. So, if you are experiencing symptoms, you must make sure you get tested or have a full STI check if you feel this is necessary.

Symptoms in men are: burning sensation when passing urine, pain or tenderness in the testicles and a cloudy discharge from the penis.

It should be noted that not all people with Chlamydia will experience symptoms.

You can find out more about Chlamydia at this website.


Gonorrhoea is another common sexually transmitted infection in the UK and it has similar symptoms to chlamydia. As well as being found in the urethra and vagina, gonorrhoea can be found in the throat, rectum, and eyes. Each affected area can be tested with the appropriate method, e.g. swab or urine test. Treatment is can be taken in two ways if testing is found positive: one oral dose of Azithromycin 1000mg with a Cefriaxone injection. However the injection can be replaced with an oral pill, if the injection is not possible.

When found in the genitals, symptoms in women are: unusual vaginal discharge, pain when passing urine, or a burning sensation in the urethra and vagina.

When found in men, symptoms may include: pain, burning or discharge from the urethra, and pain when passing urine.

When gonorrhoea is found in in other parts (for both men and women) of the body you can expect symptoms like: red and painful eyes when found in the eyes, sore throat when found in the throat, itchy and irritating rectum with discharge when found in the rectum.

Most men will have symptoms with a genital gonorrhoea infection but this is not always the case with women. Around 50% of women will experience no symptoms of a genital gonorrhoea infection.

You can find out more about Gonorrhoea here.

Genital Herpes

The herpes virus has two types: simplex I and simples II. This is where painful blisters appear on or around the mouth or genitals. Within 1 to 2 weeks of infection, most people will have a primary herpes outbreak, where symptoms are at its worst, normally including blisters and a fever, pain or irritation when urinating, and it is common for women to have an unusual discharge. Herpes is sometimes known as ‘the cold sore’ virus, and is passed via direct contact of the infected area and is highly contagious and will remain dormant in your system for ever. There are, however, treatments that can control the symptoms associated with herpes.

You can often feel a cold sore develop before it becomes visible on your skin, it is usually an itchy or tingly feeling on the spot where this is due to develop. You are able to take medication to manage your symptoms if you require this and you can take precautions to prevent transmission via sexual contact.

More can be read about herpes here.

Getting Tested

We are really lucky in the UK because we have a free healthcare system in the NHS. There are many specialist sexual health clinics in the NHS dedicated to sexual health and you can find a list here. Some NHS trusts also run postal testing services but they tend to be very restricted in the types of infections that they will make available for this type of testing.

If you are prepared to pay for a wider sexual health screen and you want the anonymity afforded by the postal testing service, there is a Harley Street clinic with a good reputation that provides this facility. The STI Clinic is able to provide a fast turnaround service apparently and they are recommended on many student websites. You can find the website here. From looking at the website, we thought the tests were quite expensive but the service appears to be highly professional and fast so if you have the money, it could be an option.